On Friday, May 21st, Maven and women.nyc hosted a webinar, “It’s Not You, It’s an Economic Crisis: Forging NYC’s path towards accessible childcare.” Liat Krawczyk, founder/lead of the Childcare Innovation Lab at women.nyc, Rachel Loeb, Acting President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and Kate Ryder, CEO of Maven, gave opening remarks about the childcare crisis in New York City, and how public entities and private companies can collaborate to solve it. 

The keynotes were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Alisha Haridasani Gupta,  gender reporter at The New York Times. The panel featured Monifa Bandele, COO of TIME’S UP, Sherry Cleary, CUNY Dean of Early Childhood Initiatives, and Faye Penn, the Executive Director of women.nyc. 

Watch the webinar here, or read on for a recap of the major highlights.

Quantifying the impact of COVID-19 on NYC’s working moms

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us — physically, financially, and emotionally. In New York City, at one point the epicenter of the virus in the US, it had outsized impacts on women and people of color, shuttering jobs and removing access to critical services and infrastructure. Working mothers particularly left the workforce at higher rates as a result of lockdowns and the consequential economic downturn. 

The NYCEDC published a report entitled, “A Crisis for Working Women and Mothers: Making the Case for Childcare at the Core of Economic Recovery in NYC,” that uncovers just how much working mothers — and likewise New York City on the whole — are suffering. The research found that the pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities, but also revealed just how critical childcare is to the economic health of the city. The research revealed:

  • Twice as many women as men left the NYC workforce in the first three months of the pandemic.
  • In January 2021, 520,000 New Yorkers weren’t seeking work due to childcare responsibilities.
  • Parents downshifting their careers could cost NYC $2.2 billion per year.
  • Up to 375,000 NYC parents may have gone from full to part-time work, taken a less demanding position, or left the workforce altogether. 

Without access to childcare because of social distancing measures (schools going remote and daycares closing, for example), women had to bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities. Having lost their jobs at disproportionate rates compared to men, and without accessible or affordable childcare, many are left without options.

“If we don't act fast in New York city, our economy could be $60 billion smaller over the next five years. Our research shows the city would lose out on $18.5 billion in disposable personal income spending power,” said Rachel Loeb.

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Corporate leadership is on the hook to help

The childcare crisis in New York City isn’t just a consequence of COVID-19, although it has certainly exacerbated the circumstances. Childcare services are inaccessible to many in New York City due to high costs, limited availability, and inadequate benefits from their employers. Maven Founder and CEO Kate Ryder believes that organizations have both a responsibility to and a legitimate business case for providing childcare benefits to their employees.

“Let me be straight with you: if you’re a business leader concerned about the effects of remote work on your company culture, and eager for a return to business as usual, you need to be thinking about childcare,” said Kate.

Kate suggests that companies need to go beyond parental leave and take an equity approach to the problem: they need to adopt strategies that meet the diverse needs of parents, wherever they are. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to family benefits. Solutions can range from low-cost approaches like parent support groups, employee resource groups, all the way to on-site childcare. What matters, according to Kate, is that employers take the time to understand what their employees need: find out how many have children, elderly parents, and the like, and adapt benefits to meet those needs.

“As Covid has shown, when parents don’t have adequate support, something breaks, and they often reduce their hours or leave their jobs, which comes with significant costs.”

Public-private partnerships can forge a better, more equitable future

Private businesses are only part of the solution. The Childcare Innovation Lab is bringing a variety of stakeholders to the table to discuss how NYC can forge a better future for parents and their families. Through these conversations, the public and private sectors can collaborate and experiment with new solutions that can help abate the childcare crisis, inform pathways to accessible childcare throughout the city, and help companies retain parents in the workforce.

"The average cost of childcare in NYC is $20,000...it’s unaffordable, it’s inaccessible, and it's not always convenient. The key here is catalyzing those public/private conversations,” said Faye Penn. “If private companies don't show up for their families, their employees are going to go to other companies that will.”

Going further, getting businesses and cities to understand that childcare is critical infrastructure in the same vein as public transportation and sanitation, is crucial. "You can no more control what your childcare options are than you can control the direction of traffic. We don't tell people you have to build a subway system. Businesses are now realizing that caregiving is critical infrastructure," said Monifa Bandele.

The Childcare Innovation Lab will continue to lead on research regarding childcare’s impact on the economy, and catalyze conversations between public and private stakeholders.

“Imagine what our city's economy could look like if we supported a more comprehensive childcare system where families wouldn't have to worry about affording care for their infants, how to piece together care for their night shifts or how they will get through summer vacation and school breaks,” said Liat Krawcyzk.

To learn more about the Childcare Innovation Lab, visit their website. To find out how Maven can help your organization improve its offerings to parents in your workplace, request a demo today.

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